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Enter the ORB. The article was about removable hard drive storage devices. I
had been aware of the Zip drives and the Jaz drives and the Syjet drives. But not
one of them fit the bill for all that I wanted in such a device. After reading the
article I knew the ORB drive was exactly what I had been waiting for.
It was almost too good to be true. The article described the ORB drive as being
super fast, versatile in a variety of device types, huge storage 2.2 gigs worth,
small in size, easy to use, and most appealing of all very low priced.
The ORB drive is made by Castlewood Systems, Inc. <http://www.castlewood.com>
and its developer also had developed the Syquest technology. Castlewood kept pushing
the release for this drive back several months and finally in the Spring of 1999
it became available after extensive beta testing.
The ORB drive comes in many flavors; SCSI internal and external, Parallel Port,
Eide and soon to be available USB and Firewire. I opted for the IDE model. Its spec
sheet seemed quite adequate for my needs. For you SCSI lovers I am sure that model
will satisfy you plenty. OS/2 support is listed on the box, but this is not exactly
correct, at least at the moment, for all models of the Orb. Both the IDE and SCSI
versions will work out of the box with OS/2, as no special drivers are required.
However, the parallel port and USB versions require drivers which aren't finished
I spoke with Castlewood recently in preparation for this article and they told
me they are definitely committed to a Parallel Port model compatible with OS/2 and
expect drivers and firmware to be updated in early July. They told me that USB,
SCSI and PP models will all be compatible with OS/2. The PP and USB models will
not be bootable but SCSI models on desktops and notebooks will be. So the ORB is
compatible with notebooks with those conditions. It was good to hear they are committed
to supporting OS/2.
One nemesis of removable drives is that they have never really quite been able
to perform on the level of a true hard drive and the ORB has managed to come the
closest of any.
I have been putting the ORB through its paces and for OS/2 users I think it can
fit the bill for your needs. I will be completely honest in my review here so that
you can make an informed choice if you want to get an ORB drive. I found it delivered
respectably with just a few glitches and limitations.
The ORB drive is bootable, acts like any IDE hard drive and requires no software
drivers for any operating systems. When you install the ORB you do it just like
an IDE hard drive. For easiest install it is best to have a PC with the latest BIOS
version. In the BIOS you just run your auto detect and you are ready to go. ORB
is recognized right away on boot up.
The ORB disks come formatted as a FAT 16 logical partition. Usually it will be
assigned the next drive letter before your CD-ROM so there should not be any problem.
If you make it a primary partition then your drive letters may get out of order.
When I booted up OS/2 it shows up just like any other drive ready for work. Drive
access time was crisp and I had no problems installing or running software on it.
It also ran streaming video without a glitch as well as sound files. I found its
2.2 gigs of space a real bonus for running or storing these large types of files.
The real test I wanted to put the ORB through was to install operating systems
and make it bootable. I installed Warp 4 to an HPFS partition and it installed without
any problems. One note, to install Warp you first must delete the FAT16 partition
with Windows9x . OS/2 was not able to do this. When I tried to install Warp 4 on
a FAT partition I ran into problems. It hung on the first reboot. At the time of
this article I am waiting for Castlewood tech support to get back to me regarding
this issue. But for the OS/2 purist this should not be an issue since they will
probably only use HPFS. Also it seems that something in the first 100megs of the
disk just does not like being assigned the boot sector. So as a remedy I created
a 2000 partition on the end of the drive free space leaving the first 100 megs empty.
Warp 3 installed just fine on HPFS once I followed this procedure.
For all its good points I really did not find all that much to criticize about
the ORB. As with any removable hard drive you have to be careful with the media.
After all it is not a fixed disk drive. The disks can withstand heat and cold fairly
well but don't drop them. There is a warning on the label stating this. You have
to be a little nimble inserting the disks. You push in and downward to mount the
disk. To eject the disk you just push an eject button or in Windows it is software
controlled. It spins up quickly so you are ready to start working right away.
If you change ORB disks to run different files systems or operating systems I
found sometimes I had to re-detect the drive in the BIOS so it would be identified
correctly on boot up. This was a minor inconvenience I feel for the versatility
of the drive.
Pentium or higher PC.
Empty external 3 1/2 or 5 1/4 drive bay with front panel access
IDE or SCSI controller for appropriate model
Windows NT 4.0 with service pack 3 or higher
OS/2 Warp or later
MS-DOS 5.0 or later
Fast, performs about like an average IDE hard drive,
Easy to set up and use,
Drive and media very low priced.
Some extra care needed when inserting disks,
Some glitch in installing Warp 4 on FAT partition,
Disks are not durable enough for rough handling like a floppy.
SPEC SHEET: For EIDE model.
10 ms read/ write 12 ms
12.2 MB/sec Data Burst Transfer Rate Maximum
16.6 MB/sec Burst Rate Transfer
Head MR (Magneto-Resistive)
ORB Tools needed for Windows. Include on the free disk that comes with ORB.
ORB Tools are a suite of Windows utilities for the ORB. It has a quick
partition/format util, a util that checks for drive integrity like scan disk
etc. and some other tools like ejecting the disk from drive. ORB is a total
stand alone drive though and does not need the orb tools. Any OS can fdisk it and
format it. The only ORB tools that will matter for OS/2 they told me, will be
for the PP models. So ORB can be a complete stand alone drive with no need for
The ORB drive sells for between $150 and $200 range. It comes with one free ORB
disk. It is loaded with advertising programs that you can delete since they take
up almost the whole 2.2 gigs of space. The best prices I have seen for the ORB have
been listed on Pricewatch.com. You may want
to also check out Indelible Blue
I give the ORB drive a thumbs up, it is quite suitable for the OS/2 user.
Copyright 1999 all rights reserved.